Big 12 M5: 03.29.13 Edition

Posted by dnspewak on March 29th, 2013

morning5_big12

  1. Texas Tech once hired Bob Knight. So why not Tubby Smith? Sources indicate the Red Raiders have met with Smith, a one-time national champion at Kentucky and the recently-fired head coach at Minnesota. The Red Raiders, who also netted Billy Gillispie two years ago after his promising coaching career fizzled at Kentucky, seem to have a knack for associating themselves with big names in the coaching business. Smith is clearly the best candidate on the list for Texas Tech at this point. It still remains to be seen what sort of consideration interim coach Chris Walker will get, but Smith is a respected name, regardless of how his tenures at Kentucky and Minnesota ended. And they never even ended that badly, comparatively speaking.
  2. Smith might even be the perfect fit at Tech, according to one writer. He’s right about one thing– inking Smith to a deal would certainly create a “splash” in Lubbock, something this school could need. His six-year run with the Golden Gophers was not stellar, and he never finished above .500 in Big Ten play. He did make three NCAA Tournaments and slammed UCLA in the second round this year, but his team collapsed after a terrific start this year. Failing to reach the second weekend would have seemed unacceptable in December, but that’s how far the team fell within the span of a few months. Playing in a brutal Big Ten didn’t help, but point is, Smith wasn’t great at Minnesota. But he could be great in another situation, considering his success at Kentucky. Yes, yes, he won a title with Rick Pitino’s players and, sure, maybe it’s easier to win at a Kentucky, but you’re not going to find many available head coaches with Smith’s pedigree.
  3. Amath M’Baye‘s decision this week to declare for the NBA Draft was a bit shocking, especially for Lon Kruger and his Oklahoma teammates. But perhaps it’s not such a bad decision after all. M’Baye has a life to live, and he has a family to help overseas and a professional career to pursue. As the article points out, he’d be almost 25 by the end of next season. He will graduate in fewer than two months. If he feels as though waiting a year to turn pro would slow his progress, then maybe it’s the best thing for him to move on. It’ll hurt, but it won’t cripple Oklahoma’s roster, and it will keep M’Baye moving forward in his own life. Win-win all around.
  4. This story made waves in August, but it’s still a fun one: Kansas’ Justin Wesley will play Wilt Chamberlain in an upcoming film called “Jayhawkers.” How’s that for having big shoes to fill? Funny thing is, Wesley had never acted before starting this project. The film’s creator just needed somebody to fill the giant role and asked Bill Self for advice. They almost settled on Thomas Robinson, but Wesley’s body type was a little more conducive to the role. So Wesley it was, and the rest is history. Get your popcorn ready.
  5. Marcus Foster turned down an in-state offer from SMU (plus Oklahoma and other nearby schools) to play at Kansas State next year. That has to hurt more after Foster earned Player of the Year honors in Texas’ Class 3A division. Even with Martavious Irving and Rodney McGruder graduating, he’ll still have to fight with Will Spradling, Angel Rodriguez, Shane Southwell and others for playing time as a freshman. But he’s good enough to do it. He can play a lot of different positions, and he also plays bigger and tougher than his 6’2” frame would suggest. The guy averaged 27 points per game in high school, too, hence the Player of the Year award. Bruce Weber will find a spot for him, and it’ll probably happen the second he steps in Manhattan.
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Big 12 M5: 03.28.13 Edition

Posted by dnspewak on March 28th, 2013

morning5_big12

  1. Your move, Texas Tech. Five-star recruit Keith Frazier just tentatively committed to play for the Red Raiders, but he wants to play for interim head coach Chris Walker. That means Tech might need to keep Walker on as the permanent coach for Frazier to stay true to his word. Is it worth it? Frazier is, after all, a consensus top-25 recruit with the potential to change the entire landscape of this program. The shooting guard from Dallas is a McDonald’s All-American. Fan interest in Lubbock could be at an all-time high if he does indeed step on campus, but it appears that will hinge on Walker’s status. As the interim coach, Walker didn’t win very many games, but don’t judge him on the mess he inherited from Billy Gillispie. He kept things together fairly well, knocked off Iowa State at one point and avoided a complete catastrophe. Frazier or no Frazier, Chris Walker isn’t a bad candidate as the permanent head coach of this program.
  2. Amath M’Baye‘s short stay at Oklahoma is over. The swingman announced he’ll skip his senior year to enter the NBA Draft, a decision made partly because he needs to financially support his family overseas. He also feels he’s mature enough to make the move, considering he’s now almost 24 years old. The former Wyoming transfer was a solid addition for Lon Kruger this year, but he wasn’t an elite player and a few heads were scratched with his decision to forgo his senior year. M’Baye has a life to live, though, and his choice makes sense on a lot of levels. It’ll leave the Sooners looking for a versatile wing to fill the void, since M’Baye did a lot of different things with his blend of size and athleticism in the frontcourt.
  3. You’ve probably heard of Andrea Hudy before. She’s already been featured on ESPN, but here’s another look at the woman behind the magic at Kansas. Hudy is the strength and conditioning coach for the Jayhawks, and she’s built quite a reputation as a fierce motivator and frightening trainer. In the background of all this is her role as a female trainer in a largely male world of men’s college basketball. It’s admirable that she’s able to do her job — and do it well — without complaint from either the players or Bill Self’s staff. It’s proof that regardless of gender, a trainer’s a trainer. And they’re almost all as scary as Andrea Hudy. Judging by Self’s dominance of the Big 12, it looks like Hudy’s a step above her competition.
  4. Oklahoma State‘s roster will depend on whether Markel Brown, Le’Bryan Nash and Marcus Smart all return to school. That’s huge. But here’s a more detailed look at exactly what Travis Ford might have to work with next year. We know Philip Jurick is gone. Ford will miss that big body, but he ran into legal trouble before the season and isn’t irreplaceable. Michael Cobbins could be primed for a big year up front, as could Kamari Murphy, who’ll be a sophomore. Oklahoma State returns a good group of guards, too, including Phil Forte and Kirby Gardner. Beyond that, the Cowboys will welcome five newcomers who could get big minutes if the OSU Big Three decide to leave for the NBA.
  5. Let’s get this over with. You probably don’t like the NIT, but you need to know that Baylor knocked off Providence to advance to the semifinals at the Garden. The Bears will now face BYU, a team it defeated in Waco earlier in the year. That was an odd game, as it turned out — Baylor fell behind early, then went on a masterful run to seize control of things and win fairly easily. At that time, it seemed like that might be the win that could turn the season around. Instead, Scott Drew’s team is playing BYU in the NIT. So much for that.
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Big 12 Conference Call: February 9 Edition

Posted by Nate Kotisso on February 9th, 2013

Welcome to another edition of our Big 12 Conference Call! This week has been some kind of something hasn’t it? We have seen TCU take down Kansas in perhaps the biggest upset in the Big 12 era as well as Baylor and Oklahoma’s attempts to play themselves off the tournament bubble. There are bigger questions that loom too. Who has the inside track for Big 12 Coach of the Year? And, if Kansas continues to slide, who will win the Big 12? Today, we’ll hit on those topics and more. 

1. Kory predicted the Jayhawks to fall to Oklahoma State on Saturday and we all know what happened at TCU on Wednesday. Is their Big 12 title hopes in jeopardy?

2. If Kansas doesn’t win the Big 12 title, who will sit atop the conference standings at the end of the year?

3. Imagine yourself on this year’s NCAA Tournament Committee and you’re forced to choose Baylor or Oklahoma to put in the field of 68. Which team would you go with and why?

4. Who do you like to win Big 12 Coach of the Year?

5. Which of the three Texas schools will have the highest finish — UT, Tech or TCU?

******

An unreal night in the Metroplex. (Rodger Mallison/Fort Worth Star-Telegram)

It was an unbelievable night in the Metroplex. (Rodger Mallison/Fort Worth Star-Telegram)

1. Kory predicted the Jayhawks to fall to Oklahoma State on Saturday and we all know what happened at TCU on Wednesday. Is their Big 12 title hopes in jeopardy?

KC: Absolutely. With the way Kansas had been playing in January, the loss to Oklahoma State was coming. The Cowboys have plenty of talent and nobody was going to go undefeated in the Big 12 this season, anyway. But the loss to TCU -ranked lower in kempom than the likes of Quinnipiac and Yale- is the worst Kansas loss since before Larry Brown was coaching in the 80′s. Point guards Elijah Johnson and Naadir Tharpe shot a combined 5-for-27 with three assists against the Horned Frogs. In his last eight games, Johnson has more turnovers (28) than assists (25). If that doesn’t trouble you, nothing will.

NK: Most definitely. Kory hit the nail on the head — a slip up was bound to happen. To be truthful, I didn’t see one of this magnitude. Their loss to TCU Wednesday has gone down as easily the biggest upset in the Big 12 era in my opinion. The Jayhawks could only win in spite of their point guard problems for so long. And now in a time where a team like Kansas is supposed to separate themselves from the rest of their conference mates, they find themselves in a tighter league race. At least it’s better for the fans of other teams.

DS: They’re in a heck of a lot more jeopardy than they were a week ago, that’s for sure. And yet the Jayhawks still sit tied atop the league with Kansas State, and they own the tiebreaker with that win in Manhattan. So forget the TCU debacle. With half of the Big 12 schedule left to play, Bill Self once again has his team in position to win a regular season title. Kansas has serious issues on the offensive end, and it’s hard to envision this team doing a ton of damage in March, but it’s still the class of the Big 12. With Self’s track record, I’m expecting to see vintage Kansas show up against the Wildcats on Big Monday. But that game in Norman is a tough one this weekend.

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Big 12 M5: 02.05.13 Edition

Posted by KoryCarpenter on February 5th, 2013

morning5_big12

  1. The weekly polls were updated on Monday and Indiana climbed to #1 in both the USA Today/Coaches and AP polls after its big win over Michigan on Saturday. Kansas dropped to #5 in both polls after losing to Oklahoma State over the weekend. Kansas State has been climbing up the rankings in recent weeks, and the Wildcats jumped five spots this week to #13 in the AP poll after wins over Texas and Oklahoma last week. Oklahoma State vaulted back into the polls with its win in Lawrence, landing at #22 this week in the AP poll and #24 in the USAT/Coaches.
  2. Did anyone guess Kansas State would be sitting at 17-4 and #13 in the country this late in the season? Relative to the talent at each school, Bruce Weber is having a similar season to his first year at Illinois when he took Bill Self’s players to the Sweet Sixteen. Weber has kept Frank Martin’s defense-first mentality on the forefront and the Wildcats have a chance to claim a tie for first place in the Big 12 next week at Kansas. They completed a season sweep of Oklahoma over the weekend after forcing 14 Sooner turnovers and holding them to 38.8% shooting from the field. A similar performance in Allen Fieldhouse next Monday against the offensively-challenged Jayhawks could spur the upset.
  3. Speaking of those offensive-challenged Jayhawks, Bill Self publicly defended senior point guard Elijah Johnson on Monday, 48 hours after telling Rustin Dodd of the Kansas City Star, “We don’t have a point guard.” Johnson was 3-of-14 from the floor with four turnovers in the 85-80 loss to Oklahoma State on Saturday. On Monday, Self said he’s sticking with Johnson in the lineup even though he thinks his senior is thinking too much while adjusting to a new position. “But that is the horse that we are gonna ride,” Self added. “And I believe that will be the best for our team.” The vote of confidence is nice, but does Self have much of a choice? If there was a Plan B at point guard, we would have seen it by now. Self’s best bet is to pump up Johnson and hope the additional confidence improves his performance by March.
  4. It’s not like Kansas lost to TCU, though. Oklahoma State had previously beaten North Carolina State this season, so there’s definitely talent on the Cowboys’ roster. It will be interesting to see if the big win in Lawrence propels Oklahoma State to reach its potential, as John Klein of the Tulsa World suggests. Freshman point guard Marcus Smart (25 points, nine rebounds, five steals) is one of the best point guards in the country, averaging 14.2 PPG, 4.6 APG, and 5.8 RPG this season. Sophomore guard Le’Bryan Nash is talented and capable of huge offensive nights but inconsistent, and we saw what junior guard Markel Brown can do, scoring 28 points in Saturday’s win.
  5. Oklahoma is vastly improved from last season thanks to head coach Lon Kruger and a solid season so far from Wyoming transfer Amath M’Baye (10.7 PPG, 5.7 RPG). But the Sooners’ guard play has been inconsistent at times this season, which led to a 52-50 home loss to Kansas State on Saturday. Senior guard Steven Pledger had 20 points in a win against Baylor but sat out the final eight minutes against Kansas State. Sam Grooms almost singlehandedly gave the Sooners the comeback win over the Wildcats, but he couldn’t find the floor for most of the first half because of defensive struggles. Oklahoma has the coaching and talent to make the NCAA Tournament, but more inconsistency on the perimeter and tough losses like Saturday’s could have them on the outside looking in on Selection Sunday.
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Biggest Win For Oklahoma Basketball Since… Who Knows?

Posted by dnspewak on January 31st, 2013

Oklahoma nearly blew a 16-point lead on Wednesday night. It turned the ball over 17 times and was outrebounded by 14. Not an absolutely vintage performance against a Baylor team fighting its own issues, but good enough for a 74-71 road victory against one of the league’s better teams. The win solidifies the Sooners’ NCAA Tournament resume and, in most cases, would deserve a pat on the back or modest praise. You know, things like… Nice win. Way to go. Keep up the good work.

Not for this program. For a moment, think back to Jeff Capel’s disastrous break-up with Oklahoma. Think back to the Tiny Gallon accusations of improper benefits, the two straight losing seasons in the post-Blake Griffin era and the overall embarrassment of a once-proud fan base. Consider all of that, and then come back to reality and realize that Oklahoma just won its most important game in years on Wednesday night. Writers like us are often guilty of hyperbole and sensationalism, but Lon Kruger put the Sooners back on the college basketball map tonight. Forget that Baylor wasn’t even ranked, and that nobody’s ever referred to the Ferrell Center in Waco as Cameron Indoor West. It was still Oklahoma’s first true quality victory this season, save for perhaps Oklahoma State earlier this month. It was an example of what this team can do when Wyoming transfer Amath M’Baye is on his game. He scored 20 points tonight, and Steven Pledger broke out in a big way with 20 more of his own. Freshman Buddy Hield played such a terrific basketball game in the backcourt that Kruger didn’t even need our man Sam Grooms (who we’ve so generously supported this season and will continue to do so). There was sharing of the basketball. A 53 percent clip from the field as a team. And a couple of veteran plays by two freshmen — Hield and Je’lon Hornbeak — at the end of the game to seal the win and hold off the Bears.

Remember Blake Griffin? Wednesday Night Might Be OU's Best Win Since He Was There

Remember Blake Griffin? Wednesday Night Might Be OU’s Best Win Since He Was There

Speaking in terms of simply RPI, it is Oklahoma’s best win since February 6, 2010 against Texas, a season in which the Sooners finished with a losing record. For our purposes, let’s call this the biggest win in Oklahoma basketball history since March 27, 2009, when Blake Griffin and his boys smacked around Syracuse in the Sweet Sixteen. It’s been a long four years since that day. Finally, the Sooners are back on track, though it’ll take awhile longer for Kruger to restore that sort of glory. Griffin had a double-double for the Los Angeles Clippers in a victory over Minnesota on Wednesday night, by the way. You could still argue Oklahoma had a better night.

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Big 12 M5: 01.31.13 Edition

Posted by Nate Kotisso on January 31st, 2013

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  1. Oklahoma finally had a chance to score a road win against Baylor that would boost their average tournament profile. So they grabbed a hold of this game early and never let go. The Sooners marched into Baylor’s Ferrell Center and handed the Bears their third home loss of the season (they’ve got six total). They got an outstanding effort from Amath M’Baye but I’m giving major props to a upperclassmen I expected a lot more from during his senior season. I pictured Steven Pledger being a serious contender for player of the year in the Big 12 but his six minute drop in playing time has seen his shooting and scoring numbers take a hit in 2012-13. Last night:  20 points, 6-for-12 shooting, made three threes, had two steals, five assists and one turnover. He made three free throws down the stretch to clinch it for Oklahoma. This game goes to show that he’s better than his season stats would tell you.
  2. Iowa State tried to make history last night, and they came close, but it just wasn’t to be. Again. The Cyclones had not won a game at Gallagher-Iba Arena in a quarter of a century and now they will have to wait another year to rewrite history. They led for a little over half of the game before losing it in an interesting final seconds of regulation. If the original call of a foul plus a 1-and-1 opportunity for Chris Babb stood firm, we could be talking a game that went to overtime and possibly a streak that could be no more. But as players and coaches will tell you, it’s never a good idea to let the referees decide the end of a game. They’ll move on and face Baylor Saturday who ironically enough have never won a game at Hilton Coliseum. Go figure.
  3. Yes it was super frosh Marcus Smart who hit the game-winner last night and had another typical superb game,  but his high school teammate is deserving of some attention tooPhil Forte stands just five feet, eleven inches tall and knows if he wasn’t a gym rat, there’s a chance he wouldn’t be playing Division 1 hoops. His tireless work ethic has earned him starters’ minutes as of late, going over 30 in four of the last five games. Last night, Forte chipped in with 17 points and four steals. It won’t be long before people outside Stillwater will realize that Forte is actually not related to former Cowboy Keiton Page.
  4. We knew it was going to get ugly in Manhattan. What hampered Texas this time? Offense again. All the Longhorns could get was 19 in the first half while K-State happened to score 19 more than UT. The Horns turn the ball over more than anyone (16 turnovers/game) in the Big 12. Wouldn’t you know it, the Wildcats would win the turnover battle 17-6.  Sheldon McClellan described this season better than anyone after the game: “Demoralizing.” At this point Rick Barnes’ only hope this spring is if he can find a way land Julius Randle for next year’s recruiting class.
  5. Kansas State absolutely would have taken a win by any means necessary after losing twice last week. While the game was never in doubt, backup forward Thomas Gipson played like there was no tomorrow. After starting the last 13 games for the Wildcats, Gipson found himself coming off the bench. He took the demotion in stride, scoring 17 points and pulling down seven boards in 21 minutes. For Gipson, there was also some added meaning for playing on January 30th. “I think that today, my real motivation was that today was my sister’s (Jade Middleton) birthday and she passed about a year ago and I just used that as my reason to play hard. I should play like that every day.” At least he’s willing to admit he doesn’t play to his potential. Now it’s time to buck that trend.
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Oklahoma A Perfect Example Of How To Schedule Advantageously

Posted by dnspewak on January 15th, 2013

Joe Lunardi released his latest Bracketology rankings this morning, and there’s a surprise team from the Big 12 in the field as a nine-seed: Oklahoma. After complete irrelevance since Blake Griffin jumped to the pros four years ago, Lon Kruger’s team picked up an important Bedlam victory at home over Oklahoma State this weekend and now firmly has itself in the NCAA Tournament conversation. And why not? The Sooners defend pretty well, they’re obviously well-coached, and they have a good mix of young guards to team with veterans Sam Grooms and Steven Pledger. Leading scorer Romero Osby has been a steady senior, Wyoming transfer Amath M’Baye has helped, and Kruger has much more depth and athleticism than a year ago. There’s a lot to like, but despite this weekend’s victory, there’s still a lot to question, too. Oklahoma was embarrassed by Gonzaga in Orlando during the Old Spice Classic. It also lost at Arkansas, dropped a home game to Stephen F. Austin, and did not have a quality victory over a projected NCAA Tournament team until knocking off the Cowboys. You can count Texas A&M as a decent victory after Elston Turner and the Aggies dismantled Kentucky at Rupp Arena, but the Wildcats have their obvious problems and Lunardi does not have A&M in the field at this point.

Oklahoma's Scheduling Has it In Good Position

Oklahoma’s Scheduling Has it In Good Position

Bottom line is, Oklahoma’s resume isn’t staggering. Strangely, though, not only are the Sooners included in the NCAA Tournament field, but they’re actually quite safe as a projected nine seed. There’s a simple explanation for all of this: the RPI! Oklahoma is a top-15 team in the RPI right now and top-10 in strength of schedule, which is downright stunning considering the competition level hasn’t seemed all that demanding to this point. This team doesn’t have many quality wins, it has really only played one elite team in Gonzaga, and it scheduled four teams from the Southland Conference during non-conference play. Makes you wonder whether somebody did the math wrong.

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Big 12 M5: 11.27.12 Edition

Posted by Nate Kotisso on November 27th, 2012

  1. There was a lot that went wrong in the Big 12 last week. There was that one school that lost to a Division II school (Texas), another team that scored 31 points in a 40 minute basketball game (TCU), and two others that lost two times each (Iowa State and West Virginia). But what was the league office to do, not release their weekly awards? Well they did. Kansas senior guard Travis Releford was named Player of the Week after averaging 20 PPG while killing it from everywhere there was hardwood (65% FG and 60% 3FG). Meanwhile, Oklahoma high-flying transfer Amath M’Baye won Rookie of the Week honors and I’ve got a feeling it won’t be his last. Let’s hope for a better overall week from our Big 12 teams.
  2. There are two teams currently undefeated in the Big 12: The first of course is Oklahoma State with its 6-0 mark and flashy Top 20 ranking. But can you name the other? Oh it’s… no, that can’t be right. Can it? That’s right, the Texas Tech Red Raiders are standing tall at 4-0. How can this be explained? This team averaged a paltry 59 points per game last season and now they’re putting up 90 on the regular. Yes they’ve dominated SWAC competition so far this year but if you told me a month ago they’d be one of two teams with a spotless record in the Big 12, I would have commended your positive attitude and kindly told you to get real. Indeed it is I who needs to get real. I’m rooting big time for Chris Walker to get a contract extension because to me, he earned one at Big 12 Media Day. He and his Red Raiders have a great litmus test coming up Saturday in Lubbock vs #9 Arizona.
  3. The injury saga with Kansas freshman Zach Peters has come to an unfortunate end. After battling through four concussions in the last two years and a rotator cuff injury suffered early this offseason, Peters has decided to leave the KU basketball team effective at the end of the fall semester. But according to coach Bill Self, Peters will not be leaving the school; he just won’t be competing anywhere else “at least for a while,” which is even sadder news. Peters had his first two concussions while playing football during his senior season in Plano, Texas, and suffered the other two within the last four months at Kansas. All the best to you, Zach.
  4. As we mentioned above, Iowa State had a rough couple days in Las Vegas. They face two ranked teams in Cincinnati and UNLV, and they had chances to win both games before faltering late, so Fred Hoiberg will have his team working hard at practice this week. One problem mentioned in this Des Moines Register article is the ineffective play of transfer Korie Lucious, whose 1:1 assist-to-turnover ratio isn’t exactly ideal from your starting point guard. Once the Cyclones can take better care of the basketball (they’re currently averaging 16 turnovers per game), only then will we see this team reach its full potential.
  5. Some breaking news to pass along: Jeff Withey plays basketball and he plays it well. The senior had himself quite a night against San Jose State, tallying 16 points, 12 rebounds and 12 blocked shots in KU’s win against San Jose State. Last night’s triple-double is only the second recorded in the history of Kansas basketball; Cole Aldrich had the other one back in 2009. But it wasn’t all easy for the Jayhawks. They held a 60-36 lead halfway through the second half before the Spartans made a run to cut their lead to seven with 2:39 to play. Kansas then scored the game’s last six points, shutting the door for good. But seriously, how did KU in the 1950s not count how many blocked shots per game Wilt Chamberlain had? That is very much a ridiculous thing to not do.
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Big 12 M5: 11.16.12 Edition

Posted by dnspewak on November 16th, 2012

  1. As if TCU weren’t already in trouble in its first season in the Big 12, coach Trent Johnson learned he’ll likely lose forward Amric Fields for the remainder of the season due to a knee injury. Freshman center Aaron Durley is already out for the season, and Fields figured to play a more important role on the Horned Frogs after a earning Mountain West Sixth Man of the Year honors as a sophomore. Outside of point guard Kyan Anderson and perhaps Garlon Green, the team’s leading returning scorer, it’s hard to fathom a more significant loss for Johnson.
  2. This is not a men’s basketball story, but it’s worth your time. Last November, Oklahoma State women’s basketball coach Kurt Budke and assistant Miranda Serna died in a plane crash en route to a recruiting visit in Arkansas. They were traveling to watch Roshunda Johnson — who signed with the Cowboys this week. That’s chilling. At the same time, it’s inspirational and an incredible story. Here’s what Johnson told the paper: “At first, I started off blaming myself,” Johnson told The Oklahoman. “It was just like, ‘Aw, man. They were on their way to come see me, and then that accident happened.’ I felt kind of bad. It was kind of hard for me… (But I had to remember) ‘At the end of the day, they were still watching you.’”
  3. It’s always fun to judge a first-year head coach in November. Kansas State fans haven’t seen Bruce Weber‘s team play any notable competition, but they’re already trying to size up their new guy. As you’ll read in that article, though, it’s difficult to make any sort of real judgment yet. It’s interesting to read that former coach Frank Martin had a reputation for failing to motivate his teams in guarantee games and cupcake non-conference matchups. This writer praises Weber for getting his kids to annihilate Alabama-Huntsville (and, just for kicks, he mentions Martin’s overtime nail-biter against Milwaukee over the weekend). He’ll have a lot more to write about after KSU’s trip to Madison Square Garden, of course.
  4. Amath M’Baye has a fascinating life. It’s much more interesting than mine and probably yours as well. He’s traveled across the world, finally landing in Norman as Oklahoma’s newest star transfer. As The Oklahoman details in this feature, M’Baye’s mother will be there every step of the way. On the court, he just might represent the missing piece for the Sooners, who tanked in Big 12 play a year ago after a solid start in Lon Kruger’s first season. Now in his second season, Kruger needs M’Baye — and his mom, we suppose — to really take on a leadership role.
  5. One final note: Kansas signed two additional recruits on Thursday. Bill Self inked Joel Embiid, a seven-foot center, as well as wing Brannen Greene. They’re both big-time prospects (I mean, they signed with Self, so they’ve got to be, right?), but Greene appears to be a little more polished at this point. He’s a top-25 recruit out of Georgia. Embiid hails from Cameroon, where he’s only played a year of organized basketball. True seven-footers don’t come along all too often, though, so there’s no telling how good this kid could be in a few years.
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Big 12 Team Preview #8: Oklahoma Sooners

Posted by KoryCarpenter on November 2nd, 2012

Over the next two weeks, we’ll bring you the obligatory team preview here at the Big 12 microsite. Oklahoma at the #8 position is next on our list.

The Skinny

  • 2011-12 record: 15-16, 5-13 Big 12
  • Key Contributors Lost: None
  • Head Coach: Lon Kruger
  • Projected Finish: 8th

Lon Kruger Enters His Second Season With the Sooners (Photo by ISportsWeb)

Every school in the country is one hire away from success or mediocrity. Take Kentucky’s handoff from Tubby Smith to Billy Gillispie to John Calipari, for example. So when Oklahoma fired Jeff Capel in 2011, two years after guiding the Sooners to the Elite Eight but failing to survive a tumultuous 2010-11 season, no one could really tell where the basketball program was headed. They had been to three Elite Eights since the turn of the century but it was nothing that could protect them from the wrath of a potentially bad hire. But in came Lon Kruger, the career journeyman who has coached in the Mountain West, Big 12, Big Ten, SEC, and the NBA. He took Florida to the 1994 Final Four and will surpass the 500-win mark this season. Last season in year one in Norman, the Sooners went 10-2 in the non-conference season thanks to a slate against teams like Idaho State and Santa Clara but struggled in the Big 12, finishing eighth and missing the postseason for the third straight year. There were a few bright spots between all the losses, though, like the 13-point victory over in-state rival Oklahoma State or the season sweep of Kansas State, an NCAA Tournament team. Luckily for the Sooners, they’re in a considerably better spot this season than Texas Tech and TCU, four should-be wins in the conference. Here’s why: Kruger returns every major contributor off last season’s team. Experience matters — just look at Missouri’s regular season last year. That experience could have a big effect on the program going forward as well. With four seniors in the starting lineup, an impressive season could boost Kruger’s recruiting going forward, which was so-so this year.

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Big 12 Morning Five: Halloween Edition

Posted by dnspewak on October 31st, 2012

  1. Happy Halloween, college basketball fans! Want to hear a story you can use as your “trick” tonight as you’re gathering candy? How about this: According to an article in the Stillwater NewsPress, J.P. Olukemi had no idea he might be ineligible for the second semester until some kid at the student union told him about it earlier this year (you’ll need to scroll to the end of the article for this excerpt). If you’re not familiar with the situation, Olukemi has recovered from the ACL injury that stole his junior year and will suit up this month, but the NCAA has not yet ruled whether he can play an additional semester in 2013. After already losing Brian Williams to a season-ending injury, the  Cowboys cannot afford to also lose Olukemi after December. It’s too bad he had to find out the harsh news from some random dude on campus.
  2. There may not be a more intriguing story in the Big 12 this year than Amath M’Baye. The Wyoming transfer could add a new element to Oklahoma this season, and he also has quite the life story. M’Baye originally hails from France, but he’s also played in California and, of course, the state of Wyoming during his early college days. His mother will fly in from France to watch Oklahoma’s exhibition game on Friday, and she’ll get to finally see the culmination of her son’s long road to Norman. If you need proof of M’Baye’s immediate impact, look no further than the fact his teammates already voted him a team captain.
  3. Bruce Weber has to feel like a lucky man after inheriting such a solid and experienced Kansas State roster. After all, Illinois canned this guy, and he landed on his feet with arguably a better job. It’s interesting to observe how Wildcats’ players and fans are welcoming their new coach and reacting to his style. He’s always been considered a fiery personality, but he’s no Frank Martin, that’s for sure. As Will Spradling puts it: “Last year it was, if we made a mistake, we were on the line. We were running… This year it’s, ‘If you make a mistake, we’re going to do it right. We’re going to get it right. We’re going to do it as many times as we need to get it right.’” At least Weber won’t need to worry about toughening his guys up. Martin took care of all that — and then some.
  4. Myck Kabongo‘s eligibility at Texas is the storyline of fall practice so far, but coach Rick Barnes isn’t saying much about the situation. Nobody’s saying anything at all, really, just that they hope the NCAA doesn’t punish him for improper benefits and deem him ineligible to play this season. It’s almost as though nobody wants to consider that scenario, because it’s pretty nightmarish. Actually, it’s quite Halloween-like. Just how bad would it be? Well, after already losing J’Covan Brown to the pros, freshman Javan Felix would have to start. Leading returning scorer Sheldon McClellan and Julien Lewis would still be around, and Barnes loves freshman DeMarcus Holland, but you’d be talking about some serious inexperience at the point guard position in a hurry.
  5. Do you want to read another article about Marcus Smart‘s selflessness and maturity? Here you go. Our intention is not to dissuade you from believing Smart is the real deal. Quite the contrary, actually. We’re sure that Smart is a terrific basketball player and a terrific person, and we’re sure he has a heck of a future ahead of him. It can be funny to read article after article about his wise-beyond-his-years maturity, though. In this particular piece, Ford has more to say about Smart: “I have coached guys who have played extremely hard and have been as unselfish as Marcus is… But Marcus can go a whole practice without shooting and not care less. It’s easy to coach a guy like that.”
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Critiquing the Preseason All-Big 12 Awards

Posted by Nate Kotisso on October 10th, 2012

College basketball’s back, baby.

But how do we know when it’s actually back? The 24-Hour college hoops marathon? Please. Midnight Madness? Not a chance. You know the season’s here when the coaches do the pointless deed of releasing their preseason all-conference awards. Feel the excitement!

Are the coaches always spot-on with their picks? Lord no but they mean well… usually. There’s a lot of good here but it has its share of stuff to pick at. So I present to you a critique of the preseason all-Big 12 awards.

Pierre Jackson has rightfully earned the Big 12 preseason player of the year award. (Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

Here, I find it easier to start off with the good stuff first. So let’s start at the top with Player of the Year, Baylor’s Pierre Jackson. Initial reaction is: nicely done, guys. A quick guard who took the league by storm blowing past defenders, shooting a cool 40% from three-point land, and squeezing in a highlight dunk or two. Scott Drew couldn’t be happier with his senior point guard’s emergence as a big-time player especially going into a season with three fewer NBA Draft picks than a year ago.

Much like the freshman of the year award, Newcomer of the Year is one of the hardest to choose. Last year the coaches masterfully selected Iowa State’s Royce White, who ended up being a first-round pick in June’s NBA Draft. This time around the coaches went with Oklahoma’s Amath M’Baye, a 6’9″ transfer from Wyoming. You may have never heard of the man before but after some help from YouTube, M’Baye could best be described as an athletic freak of nature. NBADraft.net has him going as a mid-second rounder in 2013. His numbers suggest that he’s not a natural scorer and has been horrid from three-point territory. Given his long frame, he seems to play like a guard stuck in a forward’s body.

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